Memphis Grizzlies wing player Tony Allen is part of the reason why the Grizzlies have a 2-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs.
Allen is a perennial contender for the NBA’s All-Defensive team, and he’s been one of the league’s best defenders in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies as a whole are an excellent defensive team, but Allen is the head of the spear. He routinely takes on the best opponent and locks them down. In the Warriors series, he’s held Klay Thompson to 5-15 shooting and Stephen Curry to just 1-5 shooting when matched up with them.
In a terrific profile on Allen by ESPN’s Michael Wallace, Allen describes his intense dedication to defence. His preparation process includes hours of film study:
“I’d grab our video equipment guy and say, ‘Who I got tomorrow?'” Allen said of looming defensive matchups. “I’d tell him I wanted all of their offensive sets, and I want you to give me their three previous games. I want to see their isolation situations. I want to see every time they caught it in a set when he was aggressive, every time he got it in transition. I would break that down. I study and eat all that up.”
Allen studies the film so closely that he recognises plays before they happen and knows how to make the proper adjustments.
“So when the play is coming, I’ll say in my head, ‘Let me jump to his right hand, because when they call that, I saw on film he went right and then split the pick-and-roll.’ My mind works like that in the game — in a split second. A light goes off like, ‘OK, I know this play, cool.’ When the pick comes, I’ll just need a little help. And then once I catch back up in front of him, I tell my big fella to get back. Now, we’re back to one-on-one. And the only way you’re going to beat me now is by having a jetpack on your back or something so you can jump clean over me. But it’s one-on-one defence now. So let’s get at it.”
In the Grizzlies’ Game 2 victory over the Warriors, Allen put on a clinic, harassing Thompson into 6-15 shooting with five turnovers on the night:
Allen’s hustle epitomizes the Grizzlies’ “grit-and-grind” persona:
After a steal and slam, Allen reminded players and media that he was worthy of a “First Team All-Defence” selection (he was left off this season):
That Allen dedicates himself to a defensive role is admirable. He told Wallace of his legacy as a defender:
“When they talk about the Bruce Bowens, Dennis Rodmans and Michael Coopers, I want them to remember my name, too,. I’m not just playing this game to be average. I want to be elite. I think I am, and I’ve proven it this year. It’s all right to be acknowledged; nothing wrong with that.”
The Grizzlies are in a prime spot to pull off a stunning upset over the Warriors. If they do, Allen will be one of the faces of the argument that pace-and-space offenses like the Warriors’ can be shut down by gritty, elite defenders.
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